• alfordabby
Scientific knowledge is both long lasting and open to change. In your own words, explain why scientific knowledge should be re-examined and re-tested from time to time. Include two examples that will support your response.
  • Stacey Warren - Expert
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  • chestercat
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  • anonymous
In other words, even if I can’t evaluate someone else’s raw data to tell you directly what it means, I can evaluate the way that data is used to support or refute claims. I can recognize logical fallacies and distinguish them from instances of valid reasoning. Moreover, this is the kind of thing that a non-scientist who is good at critical thinking (whether a journalist or a member of the public consuming a news story) could evaluate as well. One way to judge scientific credibility (or lack thereof) is to scope out the logical structure of the arguments a scientist is putting up for consideration. It is possible to judge whether arguments have the right kind of relationship to the empirical data without wallowing in that data oneself. Credible scientists can lay out: Here’s my hypothesis. Here’s what you’d expect to observe if the hypothesis is true. Here, on the other hand, is what you’d expect to observe if the hypothesis is false. Here’s what we actually observed (and here are the steps we took to control the other variables). Here’s what we can say (and with what degree of certainty) about the hypothesis in the light of these results. Here’s the next study we’d like to do to be even more sure. And, not only will the logical connections between the data and what is inferred from them look plausible to the science writer who is hip to the scientific method, but they ought to look plausible to other scientists — even to scientists who might prefer different hypotheses, or different experimental approaches. If what makes something good science is its epistemology — the process by which data are used to generate and/or support knowledge claims — then even scientists who may disagree with those knowledge claims should still be able to recognize the patterns of reasoning involved as properly scientific. This suggests a couple more things we might ask credible scientists to display: Here are the results of which we’re aware (published and unpublished) that might undermine our findings. Here’s how we have taken their criticisms (or implied criticisms) seriously in evaluating our own results. If the patterns of reasoning are properly scientific, why wouldn’t all the scientists agree about the knowledge claims themselves? Perhaps they’re taking different sets of data into account, or they disagree about certain of the assumptions made in framing the question. The important thing to notice here is that scientists can disagree with each other about experimental results and scientific conclusions without thinking that the other guy is a bad scientist. The hope is that, in the fullness of time, more data and dialogue will resolve the disagreements. But good, smart, honest scientists can disagree. This is not to say that there aren’t folks in lab coats whose thinking is sloppy. Indeed, catching sloppy thinking is the kind of thing you’d hope a good general understanding of science would help someone (like a scientific colleague, or a science journalist) to do. At that point, of course, it’s good to have backup — other scientists who can give you their read on the pattern of reasoning, for example. And, to the extent that a scientist — especially one talking “on the record” about the science (whether to a reporter or to other scientists or to scientifically literate members of the public) — displays sloppy thinking, that would tend to undermine his or her credibility. There are other kinds of evaluation you can probably make of a scientist’s credibility without being an expert in his or her field. Examining a scientific paper to see if the sources cited make the claims that they are purported to make by the paper citing them is one way to assess credibility. Determining whether a scientist might be biased by an employer or a funding source may be harder. But there, I suspect many of the scientists themselves are aware of these concerns and will go the extra mile to establish their credibility by taking the possibility that they are seeing what they want to see very seriously and testing their hypotheses fairly stringently so they can answer possible objections. It’s harder still to get a good read on the credibility of scientists who present evidence and interpretations with the right sort of logical structure but who have, in fact, fabricated or falsified that evidence. Being wary of results that seem too good to be true is probably a good strategy here. Also, once a scientist is caught in such misconduct, it’s entirely appropriate not to trust another word that comes from his or her mouth.
  • anonymous
got this form
  • anonymous
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